Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Have An Uneasy Feeling

Those of your who have been following my MooseBoots adventure for a while know that I tap my maple trees each year.  Actually, I tap my trees and a few of the neighbors's trees on either side of me.  Recently, I have had the feeling that it is time to tap.  The temperatures have been right, but it is way too early according to the calendar.  The season traditionally runs in late February, March and April.  Last year, I tapped around  February 21The year before, I tapped February 14th.  As much as conventional wisdom and the calendar disagree, I went ahead and tapped.  I started with one on Friday.  My suspicions were confirmed ... the tap started to drip immediately.  So, I tapped the other 14 trees today.  Not all produced today, but I am sure that this is early in the season.

I love sugaring, but  I am unsettled because of how early it is.  Having only sugared for a few years, I do not have a lot of experience upon which to base the beginning and end of the season.  I just sort of feel it out.  This year, we haven't really had much of a Winter.  In fact, there have been very few cold days with average temperatures.  We have not burned a lot of wood.  I guess that with my developing awareness comes an intuitive sense of right and wrong.  This feels wrong.

Of course, the flip side is that I must use this awareness to prepare in whatever way is necessary.  So, if it is time to tap, I tap to store the food for the coming year.  I am anxious to get into the woods and see if there are other signs of an early Spring.  Every year, I hope to increase our foraging and this year is no exception.  I am more eager this year to expand my herbal beer brewing.  To do so, I must pay attention to the signs and the changing weather.

In order to help those of you who are just beginning, or wish to expand, your own personal MooseBoots journey, I am offering my first ever give-away in celebration of my 104th post (yes, I skipped announcing my 100th).  I am giving away a copy of Wendy's Aunt Connie's and Uncle Arnold Krochmal's book, A Field Guide To Medicinal Plants.  Arnold and Connie figured prominently as authors during the back to the land movement and published many books back in the 70's and 80's.  Connie is a Master Gardener and general plant expert.  It is a bit ironic that Wendy and I are now treading a similar path so many years later.  This particular book is currently out of print.  To enter, simply leave a comment.  I will probably have to borrow Wendy's highly technical random selection machine to pick the winner on February 29th - Leap Day!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Excuse Me ... Your Sex Organs Are Showing!

My MooseBoots journey found me attending, with my mother Gar, a Mushroom Cultivation class at the Urban Farm FermentoryWendy and I have been watching the upcoming classes with great interest.  This workshop was the first in a series on mycology, of which I know very little.  My mushroom skills, and understanding, were very limited to a few easy-to-identify mushrooms and the fact that the main part of the organism grows out of sight.

The class was led by Dan, a gentleman who claims to be a hobbyist mycologist with 10 years of experience, in spite of the fact that he grows mushrooms to supply to several local restaurants.  He began by explaining the life cycle of a "mushroom".  Of course, the mushroom is the organism's sex organ with the bulk normally, in nature, hidden under the soil or in the tree.  Here is a diagram borrowed from

After the biology lesson, he began describing the process of taking the spores and growing them into food.  It is a very detailed process that, while it did not put me off, bred a bit of scepticism in Gar, who was a bit intimidated by the very technical description of sterilization processes and such.  I assured her that while the process was described as "required" that mushrooms grow in the wild without any of it.  The techniques as described are put in place to provide a more reliable result, primarily for commercial reasons.  My particular bent, as in brewing, will be to try to mimic, as much as possible, the events in nature.

After a verbal description of the process, we, the participants, were invited to prepare our own bags to take home.  We  could chose Elm Oyster or Blue Oyster mushrooms.  Both Gar and I opted for the Blue Oysters.  After the hand on portion, there was a bit of informal discussion about how to care for the bags and what to expect.

I am eager to watch the growth and to try my hand at cultivating mushrooms.  I am, of course, thinking about attending a few of the follow on classes and picking up the recommended The Mushroom Cultivator: A Practical Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home.  As has so often happened, this just illustrates how much there is to learn.  These organisms are incredible and fill such a valuable role in nature, to assist in the decomposition process.  I have a much greater appreciation for the machinations of Nature and the Earth.  And, so my MooseBoots education continues.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Waste Not ...

I have never liked to waste things.  Perhaps, it was my Grandmother's insistance that we not waste food.  Maybe, it was that we never had a lot of disposable income growing up - I never realized it, but my Dad and I spent a very short time homeless (living out of a van).  Regardless, travelling along on my MooseBoots journey has served to reinforce this.  It has shown me to respect and honor the beauty, abundance, and vibrance all around me, and to share these gifts with others.

For instance, I was reluctant to cut down the neighbor's tree.  They insist they want them all cut down.  I dragged my feet - the local birds an squirrels call them home.  I love watching them and don't wish to interrupt the vibrant life circle that surround me.  I also know that the neighbors will just have someone else cut them, if I don't.

So, when it was time to get a Christmas tree, I decided that the time was right to cut one.  I offered a heartfelt gift of love and told the tree my intentions.  As I felt the tree accepted, I cut it.  This was not a small tree - it was a 50 foot tall spruce.  After I cut it, I limbed it, carefully stcking the boughs in my yard as an offering to any of the creatures that might need shelter for the winter.  I removed the top 5 feet to use for our Yule celebration and cut, and split, the rest into firewood.  After the holidays, we took the tree down.  Again, I felt the need to fully honor this gift that I was given.

A month or so ago, someone (thank you so much) bought a copy of Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers from my search box, I guess.  When I saw the title I was immediately intrigued.  I am studying both herablism and healing and thought that the book sounded fantastic, especially in light of my "playing" at brewing.  I decided that it would be completely appropriate to use the spruce bows from the Christmas tree to make spruce beer.  So, I did!

The thick, molasses based brew is now resting in the bottles awaiting our first tasteof the finished product next Friday!  A sip during the bottling promised that the flavor will be unlike anything I've ever had.  I look forward to honoring the spruce and sharing a beer.  This MooseBoots path certainly has its sweet rewards, if only I chose to slow down, stop and look, and seek them out.  Prost!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rabbit Mittens ... Not Moose Boots

This time of year, I don't spend as much time outside.  It has not been cold, not even seasonably, which is very unsettling for me.  This time of year, for indigenous cultures, was spent crafting ... making and repairing equipment and clothing.  I have started a few projects, worked on a few projects that had been started before, and thought of several other things that I'd like to do.

Wendy and I started raising rabbits for meat years ago.  Of course, not wanting to waste anything, I also started to learn, using Back To Basics, to tan the hides.  I have saved the hides for years.  I find they are easy to work and the finished product is lovely.  I have even shown other how during our skill share last summer, which also resulted in writing a short e-book about tanning rabbit hides.  Of course, I have just stored them in the closet.  Over the years, I have talked about making different things with them.  I finally decided to act on the impulse.  Over the last week, I made a pair of rabbit hide mittens for myself.  I was really easy and very satisfying for the need to craft something useful for myself.

There a many tutorials around cyberspace on making mittens.  Most lean toward chopper mittens.  Regardless of the benefit, for my first pair, I decided to go with the seemingly simpler method of tracing my hands, adding an inch or so, cutting out the patterns, and sewing the things together.  My sewing is nothing too fancy and is limited primarily to whip-stitching, which it just what I needed.

Wendy and each of the girls has staked some kind of claim on them.  I will need to put them away somewhere until it is time to use them.  Before I start using them, though, I need to waterproof them.  It turns out that we have, from our Army days 15 years ago or so, some Sno-Seal, a beeswax based sealant.  I will probably apply this tonight to be ready for using the mittens, if the weather ever dictates the need.

Making these mittens satisfied a need to learn and create.  I am so grateful for the gift that was given so many years ago.  I also appreciate the length of time, and the cosmic coincidences and events, that have gotten me to this point on my MooseBoots path.  Each little step, or lesson, is amazingly rewarding in so many ways.

UPDATE:  Here is a picture after waterproofing.  They didn't change much.